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Transcript: Mayor and Chancellor Celebrate Equity and Excellence, First Day of School with 3-K Now in All Five Boroughs

September 5, 2019

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Some people just don’t want to give up the microphone.

[Laughter]

Jayden, it’s going to be good. It’s going to be good. Keishla, you were eloquent and what you said was so powerful. Let’s thank Keishla for everything she said.

[Applause]

Jayden is going to learn to love 3-K. I’m having flashbacks, Keishla, to when I took my kids to pre-K and to daycare before that, and every time – to all the parents here I want to say your probably have gone through it or you’re going to go through it now, when sometimes the kids don’t want to let go and you think, oh my kids are going to miss me so much, and then you come back at the end of the day and they don’t want to leave the classroom, and they don’t want to leave their new friends, and you have to like beg them to come home with you. So this is the beauty of early childhood education – that kids have an amazing ability to grow and to learn to have this extraordinary connection to their friends and all and you first think, are they ready? But then you learn really, really quickly that our youngest kids are like sponges. They are ready to learn so much. They are ready to experience so much.

And we saw it the very first day of 3-K a few years ago, where there were folks out there, and I don’t blame them, they were doubting whether three-year-olds could thrive in a New York City public school classroom, and literally within the first hour we got the answer, that day in Brooklyn, we could see these kids immediately taking to their teachers and their classmates and it was magical to watch, and that’s going to play out today in Staten Island and all over the city. And Keishla you were so eloquent and I want to say, I’m so glad that you’re going to be getting the degree you’re getting and doing the work you’re going to do because you obviously have a lot of heart and you’re going to be able to help a lot of people. And that’s so important because so many families need some support to be able to give their children all that they deserve and having access to early childhood education makes all the difference.

And I want to repeat the underlying belief, because it’s so important, our children learn the most between birth and five years old. That’s when you have that incredible opportunity, and yet, for years, and years, and years in this city and all over this country, we missed that whole window, we missed that whole opportunity and now the City of New York is focused on reaching our youngest kids and really making sure that they grow. And this is so exciting because, 3-K, this is something being attempted on a scale that’s never been tried before anywhere in the country but so far we’re seeing extraordinary results and this is a big day because for the first time 3-K is in all five boroughs. It’s here in Staten Island, now we’re everywhere.

[Applause]

Now I just want to say, for everyone, I was talking to Michael about this, first day of school is one of the most magical days of the year. For anyone who cares about kids, for our educators, for our parents, families, first day of school is amazing. It’s a time of renewal and endless possibilities and that just takes me back immediately to walking with my kids into school, that first moment, and feeling their joy, their excitement, wanting to see their friends, they were sometimes scared, but it was an amazing, positive moment. And every single time we all get together at the beginning of the school year, we feel that again, what’s possible for our kids.

So today we celebrate that more and more kids are going to get reached and we’re going to do more for them and I want to thank everyone here who’s been a part of it because ensuring that our kids get this strong start, this has taken a lot of work and a lot of people behind me have put their heart and soul into. You’ll hear, of course, from the Chancellor and from President Mulgrew in a moment, but I want to thank folks right here who have done so much, the Director for Early Childhood for District 31, Adele Williams, thank you for your great work.

[Applause]

And the Site Director for this beautiful site, Megan Ficchi, thank you so much.

[Applause]

And I also want to say, I don’t know if anyone is from School Construction Authority, but didn’t they do an amazing job? Let’s give them a round of applause wherever they are.

[Applause]

So look, I’ll just say it really simply, we know that early childhood education works. We know it makes a huge difference for a child, it makes a huge difference for a family, what Keishla said that makes a huge difference for the parents to then be able to go out and pursue their dreams as well. We see this happening more and more and so what the truth is about how quickly 3-K is growing, what an impact it’s making. Just a couple years ago, when we started, we were reaching 5,000 kids. We’re now, as of this moment, we have 17,696 kids in 3-K all over this city.

[Applause]

We expect that number to reach 20,000 in the next few weeks. We’re in 12 districts right now in this city. Next September we’ll be in 14 districts. We’re going to keep growing until the day that 3-K is universal all over this city. That’s the road we’re on.

[Applause]

And I’m going to make my public service announcement to all the parents out there, if you want 3-K for your child, and they qualify, seats are still available. So all parents who want 3-K, do what Keishla did and reach out and get all these wonderful opportunities for your kids.

Lastly, I just want to say we saw some evidence, some powerful evidence in the recent State test scores that early childhood education is working. The difference between the kids who got that opportunity and those who didn’t have it, it was striking, but especially striking because it’s helping us close the achievement gap in ways we have not seen before. We all want every child to succeed and every child to reach their God-given potential. Early childhood education is allowing that to happen in a way we’ve never seen before. And closing that achievement gap has been something that educators have been trying to work on for decades, we see something working now that opens up a whole world of possibilities and we look forward to more and more kids getting that opportunity, and then as they learn, as they grow, with the benefit of early childhood education, they’ll be able to realize their dreams through all the other things that are happening right now in New York City public schools, Computer Science for All, which is having a huge impact. Advanced Placement Courses for All, something we’re seeing incredible focus on from students, that they really want that opportunity, they are taking that opportunity, they’re doing great. Dual Language, which is such an exciting possibility in the world we’re living in and parents want that for their kids, and more and more kids are getting that opportunity. These things are making a huge difference, so a lot going on in our schools, I want to bring up our Chancellor before we let these kids get to the exciting first moment of their classroom. I want to bring up the Chancellor, but first say a few words in Spanish.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

And that translates very nicely. Parents, children, teachers, enjoy this magical moment, opening day of school, first day of school, it is a beautiful, beautiful day, and to everyone a great, great schoolyear ahead, and with that, the man who’s going to help make it happen all over the city, our Chancellor Richard Carranza.

[Applause]

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you. Buenos dias!

Audience: Buenos dias.

Chancellor Carranza: Good morning. I hope you’re as excited as we are to start this school year, this is our World Series, this is our Superbowl, this is our hockey finals, this is the—

Mayor: The Stanley Cup. It’s called the Stanley Cup.

Chancellor Carranza: The Stanley Cup.

[Laughter]

We are excited. This is what we’ve been preparing for. There is two points of the year where we are super excited. It’s the first day and then graduation. So we are on the trek. Mr. Mayor, I want to thank you for your opening remarks, I want to thank you for being here for the ribbon cutting, and before I share a few very brief remarks, I also want to recognize some other folks that are critically important to making this happen. I want to recognize the Chief of Staff for the Division of Early Childhood Education, Emmy Liss, who is here. Thank you, Emmy.

[Applause]

Josh Wallack, our Deputy Chancellor couldn’t be here. We have him out doing other things. But Emmy is representing well, and this wouldn’t happen without the senior leadership here in the Isle of Staten, who do such a great job. Our Executive Superintendent Anthony Lodico, and our Superintendent who is here with us, Vincenza Gallassio, Vinny Gallassio, thank you Superintendent Gallassio for being here.

I am excited to be celebrating my second first day of school as Chancellor, but let me give you a little bit of context to why that’s so important. Because were I a New York City student, that means that I would be starting pre-K this second first day of school. And to put that in context, the vast majority of students that start school in the United States haven’t even started and won’t start for another year until they get to kindergarten. So in New York, what has happened in early education, with 3-K and pre-K, is really groundbreaking – two whole grade levels have been added to the experience of our students. That’s important. And it’s also important because as you think about today’s first day, with 1.1 million students in our classrooms in New York City, taken into account there are 340 million people living in the United States, that means, on this very day, one out of 300 residents of this country are in a classroom in New York City. That’s the magnitude of what’s happening in New York City.

So, this is a big deal. And I’m really excited to join the Mayor and the president of our United Federation of Teachers to be here and all of our parents to be here. We want our students to have a rich environment, a rich learning experience, and that can be summed up in the immortal words of a six-year-old, and I tweeted this on Labor Day because our teachers were coming back but this is what we believe in and what we want for our every one of our children. And the six-year-old said this: “my teacher thought that I was smarter than I was, so I was.” That’s the essence of what education is all about, and when I was a teacher I still remember, on that first day, setting the expectation that you are all going to surpass – whatever you think your goals, we’re going to go beyond those goals because in this room is really the room full of the smartest kids in the school, and you are the smartest kids in the school. So I want to say to all of our 3-Kers here, you are the smartest kids on the island, right here in this school, and we’re going to do everything to make that happen. But this is also a big deal because we’re building on a rich, rich agenda – the Equity and Excellence for All agenda. We are doing things with pre-K and Universal Literacy, Computer Science for All, AP for All, all of these programs and initiatives that are giving students not only a helping hand but giving them the ladder to get to where their dreams are going to take them.

So this is where it starts, we’re excited about this. I want to thank our Mayor for having the vision to put that bold vision forward that says we are going to educate our children starting at an earlier age, and as he has already mentioned, the evidence is very promising, very promising. We have seen in New York City, with that cohort of students, that the opportunity/achievement gap that exists and permeates education across the country is starting to be narrowed right here in New York City with our p-K and 3-K programs.

So, with that I want to say let’s have a great school year. I’m glad everyone is here.

[Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish]

[Applause]

Mayor: Alright, one more special thank you, because I said what an extraordinary, beautiful center this is, and it’s just an inspiring place to be. And the company that built this, working with the School Construction Authority, great company and represented by one of its leaders, Nayan Parikh, thank you so much for your great work and all your colleagues.

[Applause]

And now it’s time, parents, and educators, and children, it’s time to go to the classroom and get started. So we’re going to take a little break and let anyone who has to go to their classroom – the moment is now. It’s opening day.

[…]

[Applause]

Mayor: Okay, we are going to take some questions first on education issues and then we’ll go to other issues. Yeah?

Question: I wanted to ask about the SDAG report – if I could hear from the Mayor and Chancellor, that would be great – obviously, the Chancellor has responded to the report saying maybe these recommendations point to a fairer future for New York City kids. You have sort of said we’re going to look at it. Understanding today that there’s not going to be a decision made, understanding you’re going to take some time to look at these proposals, can each of you say whether you anticipate approving any of the proposals in this [inaudible] –

Mayor: Again, I think – I appreciate your fine introduction but it kind of deviates from everything we’ve said. So, let me try and put in my own words, with all due respect. We asked the advisory group to do a lot of work. In the first phase, they dealt with a set of important issues. We had a long period of reviewing their work. We met with them and agreed on most but not all of the recommendations. The second report is obviously more expansive and therefore it’s going to take more careful thinking. The direction that the group is talking about is, you know, in their view, how do we create more fairness and equality in our schools which obviously motivates all of us.

But we have to make sense of the recommendations very carefully particularly on the issue of Gifted and Talented. We’ve said we are – we know we are going to take the whole school year for deep stakeholder engagement to really think it through because we’re all trying to figure out what’s a fair way to go about it going forward. And as I said yesterday, how are we going to reach all the kids who need one form or another a Gifted and Talented education? Which I don’t think anyone believes we’re doing right now. So, how do we think about this in a whole new light?

So, I’m not going to give you a preview of where we’re going to do. It is a process we have to go through. Anything you want to add?

Chancellor Carranza: Yeah, so I'll just add that we are taking a very, very deep dive into what the recommendations have been from the School Diversity Advisory committee. So, we are actually looking at them. We have a work group that is looking at those recommendations, as the Mayor has talked about. In a system, we must be able to serve the needs of all students from students with disabilities to gifted – intellectually gifted students. But we also have – and I think we owe the public the definition of, well, what is a Gifted program and what does it look like, how is it different from other programs? So, it’s a complex conversation that it’s not just about you either eliminate or don’t eliminate – it’s much more nuanced than that.

At the same time, we are doing a lot of work around, as the Mayor has talked about, making sure that we are providing robust educational opportunities for all students in all schools which is, you know, a rising tide lifts all boats concept as well. So, again, we are taking them very seriously. I want to thank the School Diversity Advisory committee for their hard work for over two years. Their work was not in vain but again we owe them the respect to really take a deep dive into what they’ve recommended and then have a public conversation about what’s the path forward. And that’s currently where we are.

Question: Just a follow up – when you say it’s going to take a year of deep engagement, and then sometimes you have to create a system and parents have to apply for it, if there is a change, can we interpret it to be that any real change wouldn’t take effect until fall of 2021?

Mayor: No, the – look, to some extent – and I know for all of those who are blessed to not be in the process of trying to figure out these challenges, it might seem like there’s only one way to do things. We’re going to find out by doing it, what’s possible. If we get to a point where see changes that can be implemented at the beginning of the new school year – therefore can be part of the next application process not the one that’s about to start now but the following in the fall of 2020 – if we think we’re ready, we’ll move. So, no, you should not interpret it as disqualifying the possibility at that point. Yes.

Question: Could you just elaborate a little bit about what the public conversation means? Like how is that engagement process going to happen? Is it going to be town halls or what is it –

Mayor: Probably a little bit of everything – town halls, something Richard and I did in the spring and we’re going to be doing again with parent leaders from all the formal parent leadership bodies. But I think there’s going to be a conversation at the district level on a variety of ways and obviously we’re going to be talking to the two unions. We’re going to be talking to experts in Gifted and Talented education and early childhood education to think about the ways we could go about this.

So, a lot of different pieces but, you know, this report – you know, we named this panel, a lot of people I think very, very highly of but advisory is a keep part of the title of that group to give us a proposal to work with. But now we’re going to really dig deep into what makes sense and you know by the end of the school year we’ll know where we’re going.

Question: Mayor, how do you feel about four-year-olds taking such a high stakes test that could determine their educational future?

Mayor: That’s a concern. It’s a real concern. I’m someone who believes that high stakes testing was overrated intensely for years and very problematically. I don’t think that high stakes testing tells us what we need to know about a child by and large, and I think there’s a real honest question about whether if it’s done too early it captures the reality. But that’s one of the things we’re really going to examine carefully in this process.

Question: Given the history of issues with school buses on the first couple of days of school, and I’ve already heard a couple reports of parents who haven’t been able to [inaudible] this morning. I’m wondering whether you’ve heard anything about how it’s going today and how you are defining success for that in the first couple days of school?

Mayor: Well, I’ll start and obviously, Chancellor if you want to jump in – I’ve heard that by and large it’s going well but there are still some problems and I don’t like that. As a parent, I don’t like that. As Mayor, I don’t like that. I think we’re all human beings but also the opening day of school has been known for a long time and everything should be in place and anything short of every route being ready is not sufficient success. Now, I think we are hindered by a very arcane system where there is a bunch of different bus companies. And I think it’s time to think about whether we need a different approach going forward. But for now, I would say overwhelmingly the routes are working as well as – from what I’m hearing, I should say. But I think the only way to measure success is, is every student served on the very first day. Please –

Question: So, in talking about improving educational equality, I feel like a large portion of the conversation has been geared more towards segregation first at the elite high schools and now the elementary G-and-T programs. In reality, this is only serving a small fraction of New York City students. So, what is your plan this year for all New York City students, many of whom more than 50 percent are not proficient in math and reading?

Mayor: So, I’ve – it’s a great question and I would say it goes right back to we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about Equity and Excellence in the coming months and trying to help people understand it again. This is the core vision, and Chancellor will jump in – I think that the discussion has often veered into one piece of the equation or another, and as you said, sometimes pieces that are very important but only affect a small number of kids. I think the conversation in this city should be about how do we educate all of our kids in the most effective manner and that the ultimate measure of fairness is that every child is getting just as good an education regardless of where they live. That’s what Equity and Excellence seeks to do. And we honestly believe that could not be achieved without going first at early childhood education. That was the foundation of both creating a much more effective school system but also a much fairer school system.

So, we’re going to keep building that out and I think that when we think about how to move the schools forward, this is where we have to move this conversation. What uplifts all of our schools because in the end – I used to talk about the good schools and the bad schools. I mean if you – my kids went to New York City public schools the whole way through and there’s this vernacular we would all use when thinking about which school – that’s a good school, that’s a bad school, you know, when you think about where your kids are going to go next. It’s horrifying language. Right, that’s disgusting when you think about it and yet we’ve all done it. And that’s because for years and years there was an acceptance of the idea that some schools had it all together and had everything they need. Other schools were just objectively failing but that couldn’t be changed, a lot of people thought.

And I think a lot of times, in the history of this city, that was sort of just accepted as a reality. But we don’t accept that reality. Equity and Excellence is about literally saying we’re going to disrupt that entire history. We believe we can make every school a good, strong school. We certainly have the caliber of educators to do it and we’ve been pouring on professional development which our educators want and is working. But we were missing a lot of the strategic and programmatic pieces. We were missing on early childhood education. We were missing on things like AP for All. And as we’re adding those pieces into the equation it’s working. But I would love it if we could move the conversation to the central question, how can we make every school a good school, how can we make every school a strong school? That has not been the essence of the conversation.

Chancellor Carranza: So, I just fundamentally disagree with the premise of the question. The conversation has not been solely focused on equity and issues of integration. The fact is New York City’s public schools, not by my estimation, not by the Mayor’s estimation, by research, researchers, is the most segregated school system in America. That’s just a fact. And when you think about the fact that one out of 300 Americans is sitting in one of our classrooms, then we have to make sure that those classrooms are responsive to the needs of the students that are in those classrooms. So, you can’t divorce academic achievement, social emotional learning, professional development from the population that is in those classrooms. It’s part of the educational process. So, please, stop bifurcating those issues. They are inextricably linked.

Now, with that, what we’re doing in New York City is at scale. No one in the country is doing what we’re doing at the scale that we’re doing it. Yet in New York State, New York City continues to lead the five largest school systems in New York State in terms of academic achievement. And year over year for the last five years, in spite of changing accountability systems in the State of New York, we have continued to show academic progress in our subgroups and with our student bodies as a whole. So, we continue to move the ball forward.

The Mayor spoke about this notion that you have good schools and bad schools. That is an antiquated way of looking at schools. You have to look at the progress that schools are making. How are they moving their student achievement but also how are they moving their environments in their schools so that they are safe and supportive environments? We have schools in all five boroughs in some places where people would say, ‘Well, there’s a good school there – absolutely. Let me take you and show you what teachers are doing to create learning environments. Let me show you what teachers are doing when students come in reading at a second grade level and by the end of the year, they are reading at a fifth grade level in the fourth grade. There is incredible things that are happening in New York City but that never gets told.

So, you can’t divorce the issue but at the same time we are moving academically, the school system, in a very positive way. We had the highest graduation rate in the history of the New York City public school system. We have the greatest achievement that we’ve ever had in spite of shifting standards. We continue to have lowering drop-outs. That means students are voting with their feet and staying in school. We continue to have increasing college-going culture rates – attendance rates. We continue to have the number of teachers that are seeking professional development that is increasing. We have a culturally responsive and sustaining curriculum definition now, which is being informed by our very community.

And again I don’t want to go on a long monologue on this but somebody asked me, ‘Well, can you give me an example of culturally responsive and sustaining curriculum?’ I can absolutely. Everybody knows this example. The most popular Broadway show in the history of Broadway is Hamilton. That is culturally responsive and sustaining. They told the story of Hamilton – American history – through hip-hop and rap. That’s what we’re talking about – how do you make it relevant for students. And you don’t have to go to Broadway to get culturally relevant and sustaining education but you should have it in your classroom – who you read about, what the figures are. If a student is in school in New York City, and it’s commonly accepted that the Civil Rights Movement includes the LGBT Civil Rights Movement, and that started right here at Stonewall Inn Uprising. And if students don’t understand that going through the public schools of New York City that that’s part of our civil rights movement, then we have not done the service we need to for those students.

That’s another example. So, all of these things are things that we are working on in conjunction with the Equity and Excellence agenda. That is the Equity and Excellence agenda. So we are proud of where we are. We are not satisfied with where we are. And that’s really the urgency with which we’re doing the work.

Mayor: Keep making sure it’s not a monologue.

[Laughter]

Question: [Inaudible] next steps? Are there any timelines in place because I’ve heard a lot of ‘We’re going to talk about it, we’re going to talk about it.’ But what can parents expect next?

Mayor: So, this is – I appreciate the question because this is an indicator of something we have failed to do effectively which is to communicate this agenda which has been in place for years and continues to build. But I don’t think it’s widely understood. So, one of the things we’re going to do this school year is go back and explain it again and really make it vivid to people. Equity and Excellence includes pre-K and 3-K, it includes things like Computer Science for All, it includes AP for All, it includes making SAT tests available for free, and CUNY admission fees being waived. It’s a whole host of strategies to open up opportunity for kids across the board and to improve schools in every ZIP code.

And when I mentioned the professional development, that’s also a key part of it. The Bronx Plan, which we’re going to talk about later in the day – which is already working bringing a lot of educators to schools in the Bronx that couldn’t fill their rosters because we weren’t applying the kinds of strategies that actually would bring those educators to some of the toughest schools in the Bronx. Now, we’re finding a way to fix that, right. When you think of it through an equity lens and you say okay we used to accept the good schools and the bad schools concept. Just think how sick it is that we used to think that was normal. We don’t accept that anymore. So, now we are taking every tool we’ve got to fix that and bring up and support a whole host of schools that used to be left for dead. We’re actually giving them the help they need to become really good schools.

And then regardless of the composition of a community, every child is getting a strong education. That is the vision and it is so important to understand that that’s – and I’m speaking as a parent now, too. Like, all the theory about how we create a utopian world, you know, how we get everything to be perfectly balanced and all – that’s not what parents are talking to me about. They are talking to me about how do you make my child’s school better right now? That’s what they care about. And we need to understand that the Equity and Excellence vision is a right-now thing.

Everything I just talked to you about is literally building every single year. I mean you’re sitting here right now in a place that exemplifies the growth of one of the strategies which is 3-K coming to Staten Island for the first time. So, to me – and this is based on a lot of conversations with educators for years and years and years – this is everything people kept asking for, right. For years, we would have this conversation – I’ve had it with Richard and Michael, I’ve had it with Carmen Farina and many others before, and they said, what would actually be transcendent?

Professional development was one of the biggest things. It doesn’t get talked about in the public debate a lot. But taking our professionals and help them get stronger all the time was one of the big missing links, right. Early childhood education – huge missing link. And just adding piece upon piece upon piece to the point that schools actually start to move. And now these test scores say – we got a long way to go, I’m not saying these test scores are the end-all be-all but they prove that these things actually start to move the ball. So, there will be a lot more of that this year and what we need to do is make that vision very clear to people.

Question: But my question specifically is what’s next? What’s next on the agenda? There’s a lot on the plate but what is next? What can you tell parents to look out for next and what’s the timeline for it?

Mayor: So, I think – and this is to say to you that there are so many pieces that have been started. What I can tell parents to look for is each of these things to really blossom and have more and more effect on their school. There’s not always going to be a new announcement each month of, we have yet a new program and a new program and a new strategy. Some of this is about taking strategies that are working and making them reach each school more deeply. The Bronx Plan is a great example.

We see already a number of educators going into schools that didn’t have enough educators in certain areas. That’s just begun. You’re going to see more of that in the course of this year. You’re going to see more of that even next year. So, it is taking the strategy and getting it to deepen across schools and watching those schools start to move. That’s what we’re doing now. Jillian?

Question: Mr. Mayor, you’ve been pretty clear that you don’t think it’s appropriate for a single high stakes test to be used for admittance to specialized high schools –

Mayor: Yeah.

Question: Do you see using a single high stakes given to children as young as four for Gifted and Talented – I mean that’s the only way in for the majority of these programs – do you see those two as analogous? Is it –

Mayor: I think it’s a real concern. To the previous question – I think it’s a real concern. And we are now turning our attention to the Gifted and Talented issue and I think the advisory group did really important work asking these tough questions and raising the sense of, you know, how can we think about this going forward. So, I think that test is going to be one of the things that we’re going to critically assess whether it does make sense the way it is structured.

Question: [Inaudible] another education topic. There was a motion filed in a longstanding lawsuit against the Department of Education over the provision of special education services this week with the plaintiff saying that the DOE is still not meeting benchmarks that they were supposed to meet 12 years ago as part of this stipulated settlement in terms of how quickly students get the services ordered for them by an impartial hearing officer. [Inaudible] just wanted to kind of get a sense of what’s going on and why it’s taking so long.

Mayor: I’ll only frame it and then turn to the Chancellor. The big frame is even back when I was Public Advocate I worked on this same issue. Clearly for years and years the Department of Education was not responsive enough to parents and families. We gave the order years ago in this administration to change that and I think there’s been immense change. I don’t know about the specifics of the lawsuit, and I’ll always be careful whenever you say the word lawsuit. I’ll let Richard take over. But we, unquestionably, said from the beginning we wanted to and needed to – could serve special-ED kids better.

Chancellor Carranza: Yeah, so, I heard the report and I haven’t read the lawsuit or what’s been filed but I can tell you that we have taken this issue seriously. There has been significant improvement. We’ve hired additional staff given the increase in volume of the concerns. My understanding is that this concerns payment to providers and the timeliness of the payments to providers. We hired additional staff in the last budget cycle. The City funded us to be able to provide the robust kinds of support to be able to process those payments. That is happening. We have on-boarded people. Again, as the Mayor said, we are nowhere where we want to be but it has gotten better and we are working diligently and this is something that is top of the agenda for us.

Question: [Inaudible] Mulgrew, if possible.

Mayor: It’s a free country [inaudible] –

[Laughter]

Question: So the terrain has changed quite a bit for you membership. The nature of training has changed pretty fundamentally in recent years. There is a different approach to discipline inside the classroom. There’s sort of the longstanding concern that maybe older teachers are sometimes encouraged to depart the system to be charitable about it. How would you characterize the mood of your rank-and-file as we begin the new school year?

President Michael Mulgrew, United Federation of Teachers: Well, as I said before, the beginning of the school year, everybody is in a very good place. They are thinking about opportunity and all the rest. In terms of the working conditions of a teacher, clearly all teachers across the country are affected by basically two decades of teacher bashing, heavily. We had a lot of it here in New York City. Actually, we were kind of ahead of the curve, a little bit, with the previous administration – that’s the nicest way to say that, too, right. And so we’ve seen now a recognition of the respect of the profession is coming back.

But the challenge it faces – anyone who walks into a classroom now is the nature of education is changing dramatically. It’s not just technology, it’s about how students are coming into the classroom, it’s about how society is changing, how the media is constantly inundating. We think it’s just adults, it’s students at all times. So, how do we keep up with that training regime is very difficult, and that’s the part that we are constantly challenged by, how do we have professional development that’s relevant, how do I continue to get frustrated at times – I get very frustrated and I’m pushing and I’m saying the Department of Education’s job is to support the people who work with the teacher – the students each and every day. It’s not about anybody else. That should be their main job at all times.

So, we’re going to always have that conflict pushing because we’re always going to strive to make it about the people who are in contact, each and every day, with the students. So, the teachers have that – they feel there’s so much more that you have to do now. So, that’s obviously causing a problem. Discipline is a major issue.

So, last year I was very happy working with the Mayor and City Council. We now have – actually they are all being trained – the first class of 45 clinical social workers are being trained right now jointly by the Department of Education and the UFT. Those social workers will not be – they will be assigned geographically but their job is to get to a school when a child is in crisis because we’ve never had that before. I had in depth conversations with the Mayor on this issue. I said what are we doing when we talk about discipline? All we talk about is the child who is acting out and what should we do with that child – should it be punishment, should it be intervention? We’re not talking about the whole picture.

What do you want me to do with a child who is the victim? What is a principal supposed to say to the parent of the child who was the victim? And then what are we supposed to say when we’re really going to have a real conversation about this, about all the other children in the classroom? Now the teacher has to figure out how to get that back into order so those children can learn during that period of time.

So, I said we need these clinical intervention specialists, first and foremost. We need to be able to take that and get that child, and de-escalate whatever is happening, and then drill down on whether we need clinical intervention. I don’t believe they should all automatically – the system before this year, automatically would say, let’s start filing paperwork so – to get them an IEP. And that’s not always the answer and it’s inappropriate.

So, the teacher is dealing with these issues every day now. So, that’s stressful and that is really – the mood of all educators is we’re taking on this responsibility, you’re asking us to do more and more. Twenty-five years ago, the conversation was about, the teacher is supposed to teach the subject, that’s it. That’s just not the reality anymore. We’re now being asked to do so many other things that society was supposed to take care of and that’s what makes it so difficult. So, that’s why when I always stand up, I thank the people because the teachers understand they are being asked to do many more things that traditionally they should have never been responsible for. But the reality is if we want to actually help those children, we have to grab that responsibility because somebody has to do it, and that’s why I thank the people who come into New York City to teach.

Question: [Inaudible] for Mr. Mulgrew, if you don’t mind coming on back – thanks.

Mayor: Come on back.

Question: I know that your union said last week that you feel like there should be a revamp of the Gifted program but I’m wondering what would be your precise method for admission that, if you could pick right now, you would pick?

President Mulgrew: Look, I appreciate the Mayor and the Chancellor speaking about the standardized test. The minute it was changed over a decade ago, I was very vocal. We should not be using a standardized test on four- and five-year-olds, period. It’s inappropriate. To me, it’s just not something that should be used. All research tells us that.

Every community – no, let me say it this way. Every school in New York City has children – have children who have the aptitude to learn in an accelerated rate. Every school has that in New York City. We need to develop a system that identifies those children. So, we have to have a conversation about what is appropriate. What are looking at? A child might come into kindergarten at a third grade reading level. If you give that child a standardized test, they are probably going to get into Gifted and Talented. But a lot of things went into that child having a third grade reading level in kindergarten. Another child might come in with no literacy skills whatsoever into kindergarten but all of a sudden jumps three years in one year. That child has an accelerated aptitude. And we have to look at those things. So, I would never, ever support using a standardized test on four- and five-year-olds ever.

Question: [Inaudible]

President Mulgrew: I would look at what the teachers are doing themselves. They should – I say there should be, basically, each district should have a plan about what you’re going to do to recognize the children with these aptitudes and get them into a program with the appropriate curriculum, because when you look at a lot of Gifted and Talented curriculums they just do a lot of the same thing. Gifted and Talented is not supposed to do a lot of the same thing. It’s supposed to go deeper. So, I think all of those things need to be looked at, and that’s part of the conversations we’re all having.

So, looking at a child’s literacy development as – because teachers are doing that each and every day in the classroom. We don’t give them standardized tests to look at their literacy development. There are other ways to do it. I would say, looking at that and moving forward with developing a program that recognizes and this is – and I’m going to say this again, this is the important piece – I taught at-risk children in high school. They had all sorts of academic problems. It was clear to me that every new cohort there were children who clearly learned at an accelerated rate and they were just never recognized by our system. And that’s what we have to solve for because every school has children who should be part of a Gifted and Talented program.

And it’s not a tracking system, it’s saying – and it’s for the teacher also. If I have two or three students in my class learning at this accelerated rate and I have 28 students, how am I going to deal with diversifying the instruction for all of the students because I also have students who are struggling and need enrichment or basically one-on-one instruction. We need that track to be put there and that’s going to be part of our conversations.

Question: [Inaudible] second grade or third grade or what – when would you see it starting?

President Mulgrew: I will sit down and – I have my own opinion but I always look at the research and I will sit down with the educators who do this work. Should we recommend second grade, third grade, or fourth grade, there’s different – I look at different school districts. I know them as they start in fourth grade, I know some who start in third, I know some who start in second. What’s in the best interest of the schools inside of a district in New York City is really the question.

Mayor: Amen – and I want to, just before we take any other questions – Michael said something very important before about honoring our educators and he spoke a truth that really needs to be reflected upon which is, it is true, there’s probably 20 years in this city and in this country where educators were under attack all the time, doing extraordinarily difficult, often thankless work, and suffering the attacks of people in public office. It was disgusting. And one of the things that I’m proudest of is the fact in the last six years, all the time, I say thank you to our educators and all the time we celebrate our educators for the difference they are making. And it is tough, tough work but it is crucial work.

So, I want to amplify the point Michael made and thank our educators, thank them for what they’re doing today and what they’re going to do every day of this school year. And while I’m at it –

President Mulgrew: [Inaudible]

[Applause]

Mayor: Alright. And while I’m at it, some other unsung heroes in these very colorful t-shirts. These folks the [inaudible] and others out there and others before them – when we think about the success of pre-K and now the success of 3-K it was this human element, these extraordinary folks who went out and told parents of this opportunity for their kids and helped them to get places in the right place and helped to reassure parents and educate parents. So, let’s clap for all the folks, the specialists here, for all they have done.

[Applause]

Okay, I think we can take a few more. A few more education and then we’ll do some non-education, and then we have to move on to the other four boroughs.

Question: So, there was a report last year showed that there was a record number of students who are classified as homeless in the district. So, I just wanted to know what are some of the specific efforts in place this year especially if there are any new efforts or initiatives to support those students.

Mayor: Well, it’s just deepening what we’ve started and this didn’t use to happen. I really want to emphasize that. We’ve always had – homelessness as a crisis in New York City goes back to the early 1980s. And there was not a particularly clear strategy in our schools for addressing homeless kids. Now we provide a whole lot of extra support to schools that have a substantial number of homeless kids, we provide help in shelters to kids both in terms of academics and attendance, we provide the school bus service directly which did not happen before this administration. So, again it is about taking the initiatives we started and deepening them and making them more effective to help our homeless kids. Go ahead –

Question: [Inaudible] for the Chancellor. It’s a little bit of a wonky question –

Mayor: [Inaudible]

Question: So, at a couple of your public appearances you mentioned – like recently – you mentioned that you want to start taking like a dipstick test of children throughout the year and I know that there are periodic assessments but can talk – can you elaborate a little bit about what you were talking about?

Chancellor Carranza: Sure, so, just for context setting, the State of New York determines what students should learn at every grade level. What is the body of knowledge students should know at every grade level. Let’s call it the State standards. Now, in order for students to master the State standards, at every grade level, teachers use something called curriculum, and curriculum is the magic of what teachers do. It’s how they help students master those standards. And so, it should be relevant, it’s how they structure their lessons, it’s how they teach their lessons, how they check whether students have mastered or not. At the end of the year, the State administers a test, called the State test, to measure whether students have mastered the body of knowledge for the year. Now, the context is important. In New York City, we have a myriad of different assessments, checks, but nothing uniform, so that as the Chancellor I could say in October, based on the assessment we’ve just done, we think that our third graders are on track to master the third grade curriculum, our fourth graders are on track to master their curriculum. We, in essence, wait until the end of the year and then figure out did they master for the year ahead? We can’t do business that way. Parents deserve to know are my students – is my child on track to master what they are supposed to master for this school year. We call them formative assessments.

The reason I’m taking time to explain this is that this is going – this could be swallowed up as, well, the Chancellor is in favor of more testing. No, I’m not. I was a teacher, for over a decade in the classroom. I assessed every day, after every lesson. I needed to know if I taught it, did my children learn it? But as a Chancellor, I need to know as well, are we on track? Are our third graders on track, are our fourth graders, are our ninth graders on track? Because if they’re not, then we, as a system, have to intervene and bring in coaches, or bring in additional supports, the supports that Michael was talking about – what teachers need. So we are going to, this year, have a system of formative assessments where we’re going to dipstick at four times during the year, how are our students doing. We are also implementing something called EduStat, where as a system we’re going to review that data and take a deep dive and figure out is the appropriate amount of support in place or not, so we wanted to have a system that replicates continuous growth, and that’s really what I was – what I’ve been talking about.

Question: That’s different from – I know there are periodic assessments, though, so would this be more of like a top-down look at –

Chancellor Carranza: It’s really a bottom-up look because formative assessments are, first and foremost, useful to the classroom teacher. They need that information as to whether their students are on track or not. So what we’re going to try to do is again, we’re not going to have one assessment on the same day at the same time. But we are going to be much more uniform in terms of how we’re looking at student achievement so that that data is useful to teachers but it also gives us, from a systemic level, some information on where we can push in as well.

Mayor: Okay, let me just say on that, real quick, this is – to the previous question about how does Equity and Excellence come to life more and more, this is very, very much related. We’re going to be looking at every school all the time and part of what I commend Richard for, among other things, is creating an organizational structure that really allows us to think school-by-school, because you have executive superintendents, you have superintendents that you have a pure geographical structure that then, the question asked of all of them is how are your schools doing? And if their schools are not doing well enough then the question is what do we need to do immediately to start moving those schools, and the assessments that Richard is talking about is about a much more active approach, right on up to the Chancellor saying, ‘Okay, we’ve got 1,800 schools, which need help in what way to keep moving forward so we can bring up the whole school system?’

Question: I talked to one parent this morning who feels like they were failed by OPT. Their child, who is special-needs, was not picked up this morning, and they could not get it resolved, so that child missed their first day of school. The parent feels like that’s unacceptable.

Mayor: Yeah, it is unacceptable.

Question: How do you fix it? What do you tell the parent –

Mayor: Well the child should not miss – I mean we’re still at the beginning – it’s nine-something, the child should get to school and the parents should do that if they can, again—

Question: [Inaudible] the para, and the para had to go to school—

Mayor: Okay, so if there’s anything we can do right now, I’m not giving up on this because again it’s the beginning of the morning. So right now, what we’re going to do is work with the folks at DOE to get that child to school, right now. Give us the contact and we’ll deal with it right this minute. We’ll send a vehicle, we’ll do whatever it takes. But, no, it’s not acceptable. Every single child is supposed to be picked up. That’s the expectation. And if there are problems today they must be resolved immediately. Again, I think there’s a – we’re trying to improve bus service in a lot of ways. I think we have to think about bigger changes going forward because dealing with all these different disparate companies is causing a lot of challenges.

Last call on anything education? Okay, please get that contact info so we can get that child right now. Anything else, other topics? We’re going to head to the other boroughs, but just see if there is anything else people want to cover? Going once, twice – okay, thanks, everyone!

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